Grading City Hall: How is L.A.'s city controller doing so far?


Opinion Editorial

Citizenship has its privileges

Should immigrants be allowed to serve on juries? It's a no-brainer. Of course they should. And they should be allowed to vote, to serve in the Legislature, to become governor. It would be morally wrong and blatantly unconstitutional to deny these basic rights and responsibilities to people who move here, demonstrate proficiency in the language and then pass a test showing they have a basic understanding of the nation's history and its justice system. People, in other words, who become naturalized. Citizens.

But there is a distinction between the rights and responsibilities of citizens and those of legal immigrants who are not citizens. Gov. Jerry Brown understands that, and he was absolutely correct to veto a bill Monday that would have extended the right to serve on a jury — or, if you prefer, the burden of serving on a jury — to noncitizens. In his veto message, he was blunt.

"Jury service, like voting, is quintessentially a prerogative and responsibility of citizenship," Brown wrote. "This bill would permit lawful permanent residents who are not citizens to serve on a jury. I don't think that's right."

The public response to the veto of AB 1401 became a kind of Rorschach test of values and views of citizenship, and of just who immigrants to the United States are. When the bill cleared the Assembly in April, more than a few online headlines asserted, falsely, that it would "let illegal immigrants serve on juries," demonstrating an inability to distinguish between new arrivals who are here legally and those who are not, and, perhaps, a discomfort with immigrants of any sort. Some supporters of the bill argued that the proposed legislation was the natural evolution of laws that over time have eliminated clearly improper restrictions against women, the elderly, African Americans, Asian Americans and other ethnic or racial groups — revealing a view that citizenship can be as much a tool of exclusion as racism and other forms of discrimination. Some arguments in support of the bill failed to differentiate between noncitizen immigrants and citizen immigrants — betraying a belief that there is not much difference between them.

But there is. Lawful residents, even permanent ones, are welcome guests. Citizens are the owners and operators of the nation's government and system of justice. As this page noted when we first opposed this bill, citizenship in this society should be the norm, and if too few lawful permanent residents can become citizens — to serve on juries, vote, run for office and otherwise take their places as co-owners of the nation — it is the nation's obligation to step up the pace of naturalization.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Gov. Brown agrees: Jury duty is for citizens only

    Gov. Brown agrees: Jury duty is for citizens only

    Editorial writers have to state a position and back it up in just a few hundred words. Gov. Jerry Brown would make a pretty good editorial writer, as he demonstrated with Monday's veto message of a bill that would have extended jury duty to noncitizens.

  • Driver's licenses for all

    Driver's licenses for all

    AB 60 provides driver's licenses to people who are in the United States illegally. That's not a reward for breaking the law; it's just common-sense legislation.

  • Faith in the Trust Act

    Faith in the Trust Act

    The bill would still allow police to hold immigrants convicted of serious crimes for up to 48 hours. But it would prohibit police from detaining solely for immigration purposes those arrested for minor offenses.

  • Does Hillary still think abortion should be 'safe, legal and rare'?

    Does Hillary still think abortion should be 'safe, legal and rare'?

    Taking as its text the controversy over the surreptitious video recording of Planned Parenthood officials discussing donations of fetal tissue, The New York Times is reporting that Republicans are altering their “script” on abortion.

  • Obamacare works in California. Here's why.

    Obamacare works in California. Here's why.

    Early reports that 2016 health insurance premiums would increase in double digits brought out the usual cadre of critics to claim — once again — that Obamacare is not financially sustainable. These proposed premiums were neither finalized nor did they reflect the full picture of rates in most states.

  • Local environmental activists don't get to make federal policy

    Local environmental activists don't get to make federal policy

    When President Obama recently approved Shell's request to drill in the Arctic, anti-fossil-fuel activists lobbied the Port of Seattle to deny docking rights to the oil giant's Alaska-bound rig. That effort failed. Then activists persuaded Washington State's King County to refuse the company a wastewater-discharge...

  • Government agencies shouldn't get keys to unlock our encrypted devices

    Government agencies shouldn't get keys to unlock our encrypted devices

    When the arrival of cheap mobile phones threatened to help criminals conceal their activities from the cops, Congress enacted a law in 1994 requiring that all phone lines be capable of being wiretapped. Now, with communications moving to the Internet, the increasing use of encryption on smartphones...

  • When 'innovation' means rule-breaking

    When 'innovation' means rule-breaking

    There is a simple reason the drug trade is so lucrative: Government mandates create a market opportunity for businesses willing to shirk the law.